A Northfield dog breeder Friday was found guilty of animal cruelty in a case that involved the drowning of dogs and puppies.
Dayna Bell, 62, the owner and operator of Bell Kennels and Farm, had been charged with 14 counts of felony animal cruelty in connection with the deaths of more than a dozen puppies and dogs in her care in September 2011. She was found guilty of 13 counts of felony animal cruelty.
A Dakota County jury deliberated for about seven hours before delivering the verdict.
"We are pleased the jury held her accountable for these egregious actions," said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
First District Judge Tim Wermager ordered a presentence investigation and set Bell's sentencing date for Jan. 14. For Bell, who has no prior criminal record, the sentence could range from little to no jail time to as much as two years in prison and fines.
Bell is out on bail and has animals at the farm, said Phillip Prokopowicz, chief deputy for the county attorney. "We do not know if she is operating a kennel," he said. "We did make a request today as a result of the verdict to inspect and remove any animals remaining there."
The presentencing investigation will include psychological evaluation, Prokopowicz said.
"We are obviously pleased with the verdict in the case. And it's clear that the jury spent considerable time, thoroughly analyzing the evidence in the case and the law."
Robert Miller, attorney for Bell, said Bell is still in business and an appeal in the case will be considered in the next few days.
"She has always denied drowning the dogs," Miller said. The defense argued that the animals should not have been classified as pets, Miller said. "If they weren't pets they weren't felonies. We thought the evidence was sufficiently confusing as to whether all the same laws apply even to make a living out of raising dogs."
The law defines a pet as an animal held for the present or future enjoyment of others. The ruling indicates the jury concluded the dogs were pets.
Bell was brought to the attention of authorities by employees.
When sheriff's deputies investigated the kennel, they found the bodies of 10 small dogs in the kennel freezer.
At the time she was charged, Backstrom said: "It is a very disturbing case. Dogs and other pets depend on us for safety and well-being, and when that trust is breached, as we are alleging it was here, it's a very serious matter."